State of the Shop: July 2020 (& Local Flavor)

It's midsummer and everything is way too intense. My repairs are backed-up like an absolute nightmare, in-shop traffic has been surprisingly-busy (despite a pandemic), and the continual march towards media saturation means my email inbox is now weeks out of date for non-right-this-minute answers -- I'm peeling back the layers slowly but surely, so sorry about that. Fortunately, I did unclog my phone messages this morning... just so they can fill in another day or two, heh heh. Phone is still the best way to get me fast, though.

Our littlest is finally learning to ride a "big girl" (no trainers) bike and we did some riding the other evening. She's really, really hesitant -- not like big sis who is eager with anything new and exciting (except food). I've been having some really stressful days so I took a break from running alongside her and propping her up to cycle down the river path in town before our personalities bumped into one another too much.

Here's a shot of my rusty old high school dependable and a stump with raspberries. The berries (which were brought back to the kids) were an attempt of my own to try to get her to learn to ride faster: "Girl, if you learn to ride, you can come down the path and pick berries with me!" She loves raspberries and raids our home patch twice a day.

In other news, the world is hard, folks. I feel bad for everyone out there struggling to stay afloat. Here I am whining about too much work while so many people have none and are facing immediate obstacles. I know this personally: I sell your guitars for you when you're in dire situations and often repair them locally on "store credit" if you're particularly downtrodden at the moment.

Mind you, I'm not really complaining because I absolutely love my work and its opportunities -- but juggling the many angles of small biz can be entirely crazy-making from time to time. I've left a lot of loose ends this year in regards to customers' feelings and expectations and I wish I could fix all of that -- but I can't. Just know that delays do not mean I don't care about you -- it's the opposite, because I need to be working on particular instruments when the workflow is conducive for them and I'm not rushing just to rush. I just can't hold everyone's hand at once, is all. I value all of you and there are lots of you waiting!

Things I've noticed, lately, though -- prices on everything just keep going up. Parts, shipping, shipping boxes (now ~$12 a piece), more and more vendors without access to cheaper goods, and all that fun stuff. Almost a year and a half ago I announced I was going to shift to $70/hr for work across the board, but I've been hesitating to enforce that policy and have still been charging $60/hr as a "bulk rate" for folks with 5+ instruments in the shop.

I just can't do that anymore so everyone is going to get stuck with $70/hr like I said I was going to do but never did. You know I work fast when I'm actually on the job, so it won't add-up that much overall and it will help pay for materials and supplies I never charge for. If you've ever run small biz, you know there's a lot of wasted (unpaid) time with any transaction as well -- whether it's shipping, talking, sourcing parts, or whatnot.

Consignment is still the same deal going forward -- I charge either the repair fee or the consignment fee -- whichever is higher -- but not both. However, I will probably be tailoring the consignment rates-per-$$-amount a little bit (some trimmed, some going a hair higher) in the near-future as I look over the sales for this year.

The margins are just getting slimmer and slimmer, especially as shipping gets more expensive every year. A decade ago a guitar could get from here to California for $35. Now that's almost $70-80 minimum if you insure it. That's still cheap for passage of such a large box in the long run, but service increases everywhere add up to fewer pennies for you and me when something sells.

Next-up: I've had a good number of folks (I put the emails in a folder until they get numerous enough to act on them) suggest I sign-up for Patreon and/or put back a PayPal donate button to support the blog's basic reference database, historical-log, and helpful-hints side of this venture. I might just do that. There are definitely days I feel like not bothering to log various instruments that come through the shop (not for sale), share how-tos or historical writeups, guides and technical advice, and all that stuff because it's a huge time-suck. Just massaging the photographs and doing the videos for those entries can be pretty tedious and I find myself pushing into late-hours in the middle of the night to try to keep up with it all.

An incentive to work on this type of stuff more freely might be a great help to making me not feel guilty taking the time out of repairs to do it. Heck, I haven't updated the "Museum" page in ages -- partly because I know I need to take a day or two and go back to the beginning of the blog and log everything on individually-listed makers' pages. That's time I can't afford at the moment but it would be an incredible help to anyone actually using that reference.

I was also thinking it'd be nice to continue more of the "mailbag" questions series -- "what is this?" and "who made this?" and "how do I fix XYZ on this?" and "what do you think about such and such bracing or such and such part?" -- stuff like that. Maybe I'll need to make a separate email to just handle "Ask Jake" questions. I love that part of the work -- the internet really is ill-informed about a lot of practical questions and simple history and it's satisfying to help folks out.

Lastly, I've recently had tons of people asking me to make parts for them -- rubber bridges, compensated 12 string saddles, tailpieces, stuff like that. I'm just going to say: sorry, no, sorry, but no, and not because I don't want to. I'm happy to make one on the spot if you bring an instrument in (so I can fit it in person and actually see what it's for and how it needs to work) or if it's shipped-in, but I've proven to myself time and again that I can never fit parts-making into my schedule. It just doesn't happen.

OK, that's enough ramble. If you have some ideas to enhance the blog experience, please let me know. I haven't been tending to the weeds enough, for sure.


Michael Mulkern said…
Can we see a close-up of your bike? Having a hard time telling whether yours is full-suspension or hardtail, although I'm quite certain the frame is carbon fiber.
Dave Homans said…
I'd gladly join a Patreon / click a donate button! You blog is probably the best deep dive resource for vintage instruments on the internet. I used as an instrument encyclopedia almost every day...
Ed Gilkison said…
Hi Jake, I think a 'tip jar - tip Jake' Paypal would be wonderful! - with just a note of your paypal account info - I don't think you have ever charged me enough on any instrument we did business on! Keep going - and don't forget to take time off to play too !
Phillips said…
Well said Jake you always make time sooner or just blessed to have the opportunity to visit every now and then..keep up the good work..
Jake Wildwood said…
Much love, everyone, thanks for weighing-in. :)

MM: I think they market my bike as a "scrap-metal" frame. The kids got the new bikes. We're nice. :D
Reese said…
Patreon: root word 'patron' — or at least a weird & intentional resonance thereof. Absolutely a fine idea. Let's go.